Bodo Illgner came through at Cologne and was Germany's No.1 before enjoying further success at Real Madrid. - ©
Bodo Illgner came through at Cologne and was Germany's No.1 before enjoying further success at Real Madrid. - ©
60 years of Bundesliga

Bodo Illgner: From Cologne to winning the World Cup with Germany and UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid


Bodo Illgner is perhaps best known for his exploits with Germany and Real Madrid, but it was in the Bundesliga with Cologne where he earned his stripes.

Illgner was still 18 when he was handed his Bundesliga debut by boyhood club Cologne on 22 February 1986. The Koblenz native went straight in at the deep end, coming on as a substitute in a 3-1 loss to record champions Bayern Munich. Over the next 12 years, he played in a further 325 Bundesliga games, having unseated Harald Schumacher as Cologne's undisputed No.1 midway through the 1986/87 season.

Learn more about Cologne's history in our Bundesliga60 clubs series

Ilgner (dressed in purple) played in all seven of West Germany's 1990 World Cup games. - 1990 Getty Images

Illgner also deposed Schumacher at international level, winning over West Germany coach Franz Beckenbauer for his country's triumphant 1990 World Cup campaign, despite being just 23 at the time. The Cologne stopper made a crucial penalty save from England's Stuart Pearce in the semi-finals, before becoming the first goalkeeper in the tournament's history to keep a clean sheet in a World Cup final as the Germans edged Diego Maradona's Argentina thanks to a late Andreas Brehme penalty.

Named European goalkeeper of the year in 1991 and Germany's best custodian for five years on the trot between 1989 and 1993, Illgner left Cologne for Real Madrid in 1996. 

Cologne had twice finished as Bundesliga runners-up on Illgner's watch, but he needed just one full season between the sticks at Real before picking up a La Liga winner's medal. In just his second season at the club, the 54-time Germany international helped the Spanish giants dethrone Borussia Dortmund as UEFA Champions League winners, ending the club's 32-year wait for the trophy.

Illgner (in red) won back his place from Santiago Canizares to help Real Madrid beat Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus in the latter stages of the 1997/98 UEFA Champions League. - Imago

Illgner got his prized pair of hands on the La Liga and Champions League titles once again in 2000/01 and 1999/00 respectively, but by that time had become back-up to emerging great Iker Casillas.

Having retired somewhat prematurely from international football on the back of Germany's shock elimination from the 1994 World Cup at the group stage, Illgner called time on a laudable club career in summer 2001, aged 33.

"I enjoyed my time at Real Madrid with Fernando Hierro, Roberto Carlos, Clarence Seedorf, Davo[r] Suker, [Predrag] Mijatovic, Raul. It was fantastic," he recalled in a 2014 interview with CNN. "I enjoyed being with these players with this quality and nice, nice lads. I enjoyed it very much. I had to fight hard to get in there, but in the end it was worth it."

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